In 1974 I curated an exhibition for the art gallery at California State University, Fresno titled Black Artists, Recent Attitudes. My idea was to exhibit black artists of my age, such as Martin Puryear, along with the generation that influenced us, if not in our work, certainly in the fact that they made it possible for us to be artists. With this in mind I decided to ask Romare Bearden and Norman Lewis to be in the show. It was a crazy idea—why would such important artists agree to be in a show curated by a person no one knew, in a school no one ever heard of?
I had come to know Romare Bearden because in 1971 I had visited him while doing research on dancer and choreographer Isadora Duncan. A dancer I interviewed suggested I talk to Bearden and arranged for our meeting. During that visit Bearden invited me to have an exhibition at the Cinque Gallery, a space dedicated to showing the work of young black artists that he, Lewis and Ernest started. (I had brought photographs of my work with me to the meeting.) Having had this introduction, I was less terrified to ask Bearden to be in the Fresno show. He graciously agreed. He asked who else was I asking to be in the show. I mentioned the artists, including Lewis. He said he would tell Lewis I was coming—providing me with more courage.
The loft stairwell in Bearden's building was brightly lit and somewhat welcoming, but the hallway to Lewis's loft was dark and uninviting. It dramatized my fears in an unsettling way as I approached his door. I knocked and he opened the door a crack, so I could only see his face. He asked who I was and what I wanted. I told him about the show in Fresno and if he would contribute a work. He asked, "Is Romy in it?" I said yes. He said, "O.K. then, I will do it," and closed the door.